The universities, which already provide Web-site hosting and other services for open-source projects, including the Linux operating system, Mozilla Web browser, and Apache Web server, will use the money to support faculty and student projects and develop computer-science coursework. Google is a heavy user of Linux, Apache, and other open-source software written by groups of developers collaborating over the Internet, distributed free of charge online, and whose code is open for modification by users. Backing open-source projects also puts pressure on Microsoft and other software companies, says Google open-source programs manager Chris DiBona.
"Competitive pressures are really good for end-users," says DiBona. The popularity of the Mozilla project's Firefox Web browser pushed Microsoft to update its Internet Explorer Web browser and make it more user friendly for example, he says. And "the Linux kernel being terrific forces the entire operating system market to be better." Google competes with Microsoft in the market for online ads tied to Internet searches, and increasingly in the market for desktop software.
In addition to consuming open-source software, Google selectively releases its own code under the open-source BSD and Apache licenses, according to DiBona. The company has posted about a half dozen pieces of software, or about 20,000 lines of code, to its Web site in the past year, mostly technical tools for programmers. DiBona says Google may move toward releasing more original open-source software, in addition to the patches for existing programs that it distributes now.